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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

2o8                             THE GAY GENIUS

meditation, it enables the yogi to arrive at a state of mind where first
the perception of gross matter of the universe falls away, and finally
the mind loses all sense of subject-object relations and attains a com-
plete thoughtless vacuum, characterised by a feeling of ecstatic bliss.
Yogis admit that such a state of blissful vacuum is only temporary and
cannot be permanently achieved except by death; nevertheless, tb^
blissful feeling of a trance is so pleasant that the yogi desires to repeat
that experience as often as possible. Modern Hindus and Chinese who
have followed the yoga exercises claim a great improvement in their
physical health and a new mental poise and emotional equilibrium
that they did not have before. Chinese practitioners sometimes are not
aware that this is yoga, but call it by the name of "sitting still", "intro-
spection", "meditation", and other Buddhist-Taoist terms. Naturally
the violent contortions of the body in the adoption of fantastic postures,
such as the "peacock posture" and the "fish posture", are rejected as^
too strenuous by Chinese scholars, and Su Tungpo contented himself
with adopting a comfortable position, which may be regarded, as the
Chinese contribution to yoga.

We are not interested in yoga practice in general, but in the specific
practise of yoga as detailed by Su Tungpo, in the year 1083. He had
read and absorbed a vast amount of Buddhist and Taoist scripture, and
had constantly discussed these things with the priests. Following his
brother's example, he began to take more and more interest in con-
trolled breathing and mind control. He rather played with the idea of^
finding the elixir of immortality, but even without attaining that
supreme goal, the idea of achieving better health and mental poise wrfj
appealing to him.  It must be remembered that the Chinese idea oF
hygiene differs in practise, if not in principles, from Western hygiene.
According to the Chinese, one should not squander one's physical
energies in batting a ball and chasing about the field to catch it. That
would be the antithesis of the Chinese principle of hygiene, ymg sheng,
which really means "conservation of energy". Yoga presents a formula
for physical and mental hygiene most acceptable to the Chinese scholar,
for the very essence of yoga is rest, calculated and self-conscious rest.
It prescribes not only the holding of the breath in regulated periods and
the adoption of a bodily posture of rest, but even tries to eliminate tjie-
mental activities which are natural when we are sitting restfully
arm-chair. The whole effort of the yoga practice may be described irB
simple and untechnical terms as an effort to think less and less until
one thinks of nothing at all. The last is of course the most difficult of
all.  First it aims at concentration on one point—which is difficult
enough, because the mind naturally keeps wandering from one thought
to another related thought.   But even that is only the4ower stage,
a; in the higher stage, one advances from dharana to dhyana,